If you were to ask the general public what the biggest risk factors are for disease and disability in England, many might correctly guess smoking and poor diet but few might appreciate the very real dangers of high blood pressure.
This month Public Health England have been focusing on what has been termed the silent killer, as they aim to raise awareness that there are an estimated 5.5 million people who have undiagnosed and untreated high blood pressure in England. In other words, for every person we know about with high blood pressure, there are seven more we don't.
Pharmacies play a critical role in accessing members of the public who have perhaps never had their blood pressure checked as they often feel perfectly fine and see no reason to consult a health professional. Encouraging somebody to have a blood pressure check in the pharmacy could therefore be a life-saving intervention.
If left untreated high blood pressure not only hugely increases the risk of heart attack and stroke, but also kidney failure and this country's biggest killer, dementia. It is important to reassure people however that high blood pressure is controllable and doesn't always require somebody to take medication.
HLP teams are encouraged to be aware of the risk factors for high blood pressure which can be modified to make a positive difference. For example, cutting back on salt and alcohol, exercising regularly and keeping to a healthy weight can all make a significant difference to your blood pressure. Try and engage with national charities such as Blood Pressure UK who have a national 'Know Your Numbers' week. The British Heart Foundation also provides a wide range of support materials and online advice.